By Deb Patterson
WARSAW — Kevin McSherry and Mike Yazel received the 2021 honors of Firemen of the Year and Ed Rock was the recipient of the Service Award at the annual Kosciusko Fire Association Fish Fry Thursday evening, Sept. 16. McSherry was also recipient of the McQueen Excellence Award by the District 5 Fire Association.
The yearly event brings firefighters from across the county to enjoy a meal and recognize their own with the yearly awards.
McSherry, who has served as association chairman for numerous years, has served as Burket Fire Chief for 30 of his more than 40 years on the department. His nomination noted he started in the fire service at the age of 20, and has been a great leader on the department and throughout the county. His passion and love for the fire service was stated, noting “he walks the walk.” McSherry is credited for bringing new recruits to his department, with an eagerness to teach.
Emotional at receiving the award for the third time, McSherry thanked the firemen for the honor and stated “We’ve got work to do and I’m not quitting yet.” McSherry received the Fireman of the Year Award in 1988 and 2007.
John Grolich, Indiana Volunteer Firefighter’s Association District 5 chairman, presented the award, noting all of McSherry’s training certifications, including being a charger member of Squad 70. His service on the area planning commission was also noted.
Yazel, fire chief at Mentone, also has more than 40 years on his department. His nomination noted he would never put his name in for any award and has been an asset to the department. “He has a wealth of knowledge that is shown on every run and meeting.” It was noted Yazel spends countless hours in meetings to better the entire county and is the type to listen and when he has something to say, he gets “right to the point.” His nominees noted appreciation for his time and dedication to his department and county association.
Yazel was not present to accept his award.
The Service Award caught Rock off guard and he perhaps was speechless for the first time. Rock, a member of the Mentone Fire Department for the past 39 years, was recognized for his dedication of attending endless meetings on behalf of the fire service, bringing reason to the service and answers to questions.
Winona Lake Fire Department received the yearly attendance award based on the number and percentage of members attending county fire meetings.
Two Friends of the Firemen awards were presented. Cary Groninger, county commissioner, was honored for his support and being a driving force in bringing the new radio system to the county. Suzie Light was also honored for her assistance and guidance in helping with funding for the new system.
The evening wasn’t complete without the annual presentation of year pins by the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter’s Association. There were 15 firefighters receiving their 25-year pins from the various departments and two — Ellis Shepherd and Roger Gelbaugh — receiving their 50-year pins.
During the meeting, it was noted two new firefighters will become officers of the association. Chris Fancil will take over as vice president and Carson Kintzel will be the new treasurer. McSherry will remain president and Bobby Adams will remain secretary. Matt Cohagan and John Conley stepped down from their roles as vice president and treasurer.
During the meeting, McSherry noted it had been a good year for the association. While COVID-19 brought a lot of grief and hardship, it did free up federal money, including funds for the new radio towers. It was noted the project is ready to begin, pending permit approvals. All equipment for the towers is ready to be installed as well as for the new dispatch center.
There were several solemn moments of the evening. Roger Gelbaugh, who always serves as master of ceremonies, was not able to attend due to health reasons. There was also the ringing of the bell in memory of those firefighters who passed away during the year. There were two members recognized.